REVIEW: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Genre: Contemporary YA Romance

Review: I finished this book less than an hour ago and I am just itching to squeal about it!

I told myself recently that I had fun with my contemporary romances over the summer, but I should start picking up some trilogies and serious books again as fall rolls around. And then I spotted this book while doing a lap around Barnes & Noble and was stupid excited to read it. I had lots of doubts, considering that I’m the first person I know who has marked it to-read and the synopsis seems to give a lot away, but I’ll be the first to tell you what I discovered firsthand: don’t let any of those doubts fool you.

The reader meets our main character, Bailey Rydell (Grease reference, anyone?), who has just moved to a coastal California town just outside San Francisco to live with her father after her mother and her new husband’s fighting in Washington D.C. drives her to the opposite coast. An avid classic film fan, Bailey has been messaging another film nut, who uses the alias “Alex”, for months on an app for an online movie forum under the name “Mink”. “Alex” just so happens to live in the same town as Bailey’s father and has been practically begging her to fly out to meet him for an upcoming film festival, but she decides to put her detective skills to the test to find him herself instead of approaching the topic honestly. When Bailey starts her summer job working part-time at a local museum, she meets Porter Roth, whose family is known to be local surfing legends–and just so happens to drive her up the wall. Will she let the attractive and aggravating surfer boy distract her, or will she find her potential soulmate in the mysterious “Alex”?

Now, when you read the synopsis, you can easily infer that Porter is, in fact, “Alex”. This knowledge bugged me the whole book, as I wondered what the excitement would be about if the big reveal is spoiled from the time you read the inside cover of the hardcover’s jacket. The truth is that the book is not about the big reveal, but the events and discoveries that lead to it. There is a reasonable amount of predictability, but every twist and turn of the plot is thoroughly enjoyable and has its own element of surprise, predictability aside. Don’t let any of that turn you off from this truly delightful book.

Half of my thrill with this book was because I was ecstatic that it wasn’t bad, like I feared it might be. The other half of my delight came from how applaudable Jenn Bennett’s representation was! Of course, there is always room for improvement, but Bennett openly presents a world where people of many nationalities and sexualities are represented in some form or another (most notably Porter, who is half-Hawaiian and Bailey’s best friend Grace, whose father is from Nigeria and who was raised in England). And none of these characters were introduced as diverse for any reason but that it was who they were. It didn’t feel forced in any way and didn’t feel present to meet some politically-pressured quota. They existed simply as people, and their backgrounds and varying cultures were woven in seamlessly at points. This can be rare in the YA contemporary romance world sometimes, so I was happy to note Bennett’s inclusion.

Alex, Approximately is also an incredible demonstration of character and relational development. Each character grows and contributes to the growth of those around them. The relationships move naturally and are incredibly healthy, as many times they point out each other’s accidentally sexist comments or, in multiple cases, unwillingness to be honest and vulnerable. I found much of this to be highly relatable, and reading Bailey’s personal transformation over the book was like reading my personal transformation over recent years. I can honestly say I have no qualms with any of the development within the characters or the world that Bennett built. It’s all truly stunning.

This is my first Jenn Bennett book, so I had no idea what to expect. Therefore, I was absolutely blown away. I devoured this book in approximately (ha) twenty-four hours because I just couldn’t put it down. This has honestly jumped way higher up my list of favorite contemporary romances than I thought it would, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I felt so at home in this book and wish I had it in physical form, not just on my kindle, so that I could proudly display it on my (crammed) bookshelf. After enjoying this book, which I highly recommend, I can’t wait to check out Jenn Bennett’s other books!

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